Sorry South Jersey — Little of That $400M in Transportation Spending is for You
Sixty-plus projects are set to benefit from an extra $400 million in transportation spending signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie weeks ago, but just three will take place in New Jersey's southernmost counties - Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland.
In total, $260 million is headed to roads and bridges, with another $140 million meant to improve NJ Transit services.
The overwhelming majority of money is devoted to North and Central Jersey counties. New Jersey's southernmost region will see bridge deck repairs on Route 55 in Cumberland County, resurfacing of Route 40 in Atlantic County and resurfacing of Route 9 in Cape May County.
"South Jersey does tend, sometimes, to get the short end of the stick," State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, told the Townsquare News Network. "We have to remind those folks throughout the state all the time that we're here and that we need help. We send plenty of money back up to North Jersey, particularly in the form of tourism tax dollars."
Van Drew voted in favor of this North- and Central-heavy round of transportation funding, noting the state has been kind to his district in years past for major projects such as removing a series of traffic lights from the Garden State Parkway, reworking Exit 0 and demolition of a bridge connecting Atlantic and Cape May counties.
"This was not our year," Van Drew said.
But it's his hope that since he "didn't make a huge amount of noise this year" for the region, lawmakers in other parts of the state will return the favor in years ahead and allow the South to access the funding it needs to begin or design some much-needed projects.
"I am really going to make a lot of noise and fight for South Jersey over the next few years," he said. "Keep in mind that the three areas with the greatest economic need, the lowest per-capita income, the highest unemployment rate ... are Atlantic, Cape and Cumberland counties."
The "noise" promised by Van Drew will likely come in the form of interaction with transportation officials and the Governor's Office. Legislation is not always the answer, he said, but a current bill from Van Drew directs the Department of Transportation to allocate funds for concept development and design of a Route 55 extension.
Van Drew said he believes the roadway can be extended to the GSP in a way that improves traffic, limits accidents, helps businesses and doesn't hurt the environment.
Other areas of concern include county bridges and Exit 20 of the Parkway, he said.